Education and healthcare top priorities
The California Legislature approved a $215 billion budget for fiscal year 2019-20, which begins July 1.
Educational spending dominates the budget, but Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders agreed on several new programs, including health insurance for the poor, immigrants and many non-citizens.
Families of four who earn as much as $150,500 a year would be eligible for health insurance subsidies under the new law. Also, California’s Medicaid program would expand to include young adults ages 19 to 25.
Funding for initiatives to address concerns about wildfires and to try to mitigate their effects also was substantially increased. This includes a monthly fee of 80 cents on phone, including cell phone, bills to pay for critical improvements, such as handling text messages, photos and, even, videos, in the state’s 911 system.
The current fee is based on phone calls, but as the use of text messages grows, the fee is collecting less revenue.
The governor’s January budget request estimated the fee would generate about $170 million annually. These funds would build a “Next Generation 911 system that provides various benefits compared to the legacy system, including faster call delivery, increased routing accuracy and functionality, call overflow and backup functionality, updated geographic information capability and wireless location data, and incoming text capability.”
The governor’s proposals for increasing the Rainy Day fund and paying down state obligations, such as funding for teacher’s pensions, were not changed.
State Sen. Jeff Stone, 28th District, who represents the Hill communities, supported many of these initiatives, but argued that healthcare for people in the country illegally was wrong.
“Budgets are about priorities. I agree with the belief that we should be philanthropic to the working families who struggle to make ends meet. I agree that we should care about working poor who can’t afford healthcare,” he said in a press release after the budget vote. “That’s why I find it morally wrong to raise taxes on working men and women in order to give free healthcare to individuals between the ages of 18 and 25 who are in this country illegally.”
He argued that addressing homelessness was a necessary priority and more consideration for these programs would benefit state residents.
“Government’s first priority is public safety. Its next priority is to help those citizens who can’t help themselves,” concluded Stone